ON THE ROCKS
ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, March 14, 1999
The crowds were fantastic, the curling outstanding, the fans loved the curlers, the curlers loved the fans, the curlers loved their fellow curlers, the fans loved each other - hey, the curlers even loved the ice and most of the ever-lovin' media.
I was waiting for the other shoe to fall, thinking something had to go wrong, but it never really did. Oh, a slight computer malfunction delayed Thursday morning's draw for an hour, but director of ice and rocks (icemaker) Tim Yeo and his crew did a great job of getting things back in shape quickly.
The curlers and fans loved the Brier Patch entertainment as lined up by Dennis (The Menace) Moore, with the possible exception of '`Buddy Whatsis name and the Other Fellas,'' who performed and simply talked too much late Thursday night, but nobody's perfect. Moore, who was available for comment but couldn't, due to losing his voice on Friday, wrote down his explanation: ``They never appeared before that large a crowd before, and were slightly intimidated.''
The only other glitch came Friday morning when almost nobody showed up for the Brier breakfast, despite appearances by Danny Hooper and the Honky Tonk Heroes, the lovely and oh-so talented Kit Kat Club plus hilarious emcee Jim Jerome.
Jerome, who left our city last summer to live in Ottawa where his dad is in ill health, had the crowd, mostly volunteers and Northlands staff, in stitches with his one-line shots. He tried in vain to get the Norwood Legion Pipe Band to play the Macarena, and his impersonation of Russ Howard's vocal cords had the crowd howling.
'`Could you imagine how irritating he would be if a sheet of curling ice was five-and-a half miles long?'' he concluded.
Hooper and his band were great at the opening banquet last week, were outstanding at the banquet Friday and dazzled in front of a huge crowd Friday night.
'`I fact, Moore wrote down, ``some members of the band were upset with their leader early in the morning when they needed a washroom break, but Hooper and the crowd were having a ball and he wasn't about to stop.''
How small was the crowd? Jerome summed it up early by announcing, '`A special once-only deal for this morning's breakfast, everybody in the room gets to sit at their own private table.''
'`Too much money,'' said one lady from Legal, who did not attend the breakfast. ``My husband and I drove in every day to attend most of the festivities, but $35 was just too much to justify the trip.''
She was probably right, but in retrospect a Brier breakfast, especially late in the week, when curling fans' stamina might have weakened a bit, wasn't necessary. It was a shame because in my opinion Friday morning's breakfast provided the best entertainment of the week.
Lots of well-deserved awards were handed out this week, like Saskatchewan's likeable friendly giant Gerald Shymko winning the Ross Harstone Trophy, presented annually to the player chosen by his peers as the Brier curler who best combines good sportsmanship, observance of the rules, exemplary conduct and curling ability.
They should have given the big guy another - for the curler who most resembles our own last friendly giant, Hec Gervais.
Could have given an award to local fan favourite Hunka Hunka whatever for taking the most leaks during a Brier and telling the whole country about it. Quebec's Guy Hemmings should have gotten an award for most Brier games played without a hair in place, and Manitoba's Mr. Smooth Jeff Stoughton an award for most games played without a hair out of place.
Suzanne Bertrand, coach of the likeable but unfortunately winless Yukon/NWT squad skipped by Orest Peech, should have gotten an award for funniest quote of the week when she told Sun reporter Scott Zerr: "It's hard to find four men who want to visualize and do imagery and do the breathing and relaxation and really share feelings."
Geez, Suzanne, I've been playing the roaring game for 52 years and almost without exception every team I played with admittedly were hard of hearing but had excellent vision, had humongous imagination, were breathing pretty good, relaxed to a fault and after every game we not only shared our feelings in the lounge, for sometimes two to three hours we vented our spleen as well. We're not hard to find, Suzanne, in fact feel free to join my sportsmen's league team after our Wednesday afternoon playoff game at the Avonair and we'll really share our feelings together, especially if you're buying.
Lots of fond remembrances this past week of Hec Gervais, who didn't make it to the shootout, but who left so many great stories behind when he passed away a year and a half ago, it was like he was still with us.
His picture was everywhere and he would have doubled up laughing seeing his head on the Brier medallions you had to buy to get a drink in the Brier Patch.
"Give me $50 worth of Hectors," the guy in front of me at the buyer's wicket exclaimed late Wednesday night. Hector had to back off in the drinking department the last half a dozen years of his life due to a heart condition, but before that he more than held his own in any company. He was one of those athletes who could party most of the night and with very little sleep get the job done on the ice the next day.
"The year we won the Calgary Brier in 1961," remembers Hector's long-time friend and third man Ron Anton, "we got a big boost when his buddy Rolly Douziech came along. Rolly, himself an excellent curler, realized how many were going to make the trip from the Edmonton area and booked a room at our hotel. He knew the party every night would likely be in Hector's room, so, at his own expense he played host all week long to try and take some pressure off. Hec wasn't all that pleased, but personally I think it helped us win."
Anton didn't go to Scotland for the Scotch Cup - then the world championship - that year. At 19 years of age and still the youngest ever to win a Brier, he felt he owed it to his father to return to his studies at the U of A. His spot was taken by personable Vic Raymer, a long-time member of the old Avenue club who was about Hector's size. Along with front enders Wally Ursulak and Ray Werner, they won the world championship. Ironically, last week Rolly at the age of 82 and Ray, 84, passed away.